34 Meetinghouse Road
Address: 34 Meetinghouse Road
Current Use: Residential
Past Uses:Commerce/Trade; Restaurant/Tavern
Architectural Style: Cape
Construction Date: Unknown 1720s-1730s
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Original Windows...Click to Enlarge
Carriage house (1875)
Chicken coop (2009)
Carriage House/Woodshed...Cick to Enlarge
Harold P. Vannah
This house was moved to its current location in Bedford in 1970 by Harold P. Vannah, an antiques dealer with a shop on South River Road in Bedford. The house’s origins are highly speculative since Vannah claimed it was a trading post built by John Cromwell, a fur trader who operated in the Merrimack Valley in the vicinity of the Town of Merrimack in the mid-1660s. What is more certain is that Vannah salvaged the building, or at least part of it, from the rear ell of the late 18th-century McGaw family homestead in Reed’s Ferry on the west bank of the Merrimack River in the Town of Merrimack.
So far, there is no knowledge to any changes Vannah might have made during the restoration. Without this type of information, the building’s historical significance is difficult to determine, although it can be determined that the house’s timber frame is 18th-century in form. In 1971, Vannah wrote the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, briefly describing his activities and asking for financial support and recognition.
John Cromwell is considered the earliest settler in the area of what today is the Town of Merrimack. He is thought to have established a trading post about two miles south of Thornton Ferry prior to 1656. Tradition has it that he eventually had a falling out with the local Native Americans, who set fire to his trading post. After the fire, Cromwell is said to have left town, and to the best of today's knowledge, did not return to Merrimack. Vannah claimed that although abandoned, the trading post survived and was taken over by Thomas Parker in the late 1710s. Parker is said to continue the operation of the trading post before renaming it as Reed's Ferry. It seems likely that this building might have been associated with the early development of Reed’s Ferry, which began operation prior to 1731 as settlers began to move up the Merrimack Valley and settle on the west side of the river as a result of the Narragansett land grants.
Jacob McGaw and Robert McGaw
It is believed that this building was the rear part of the McGaw property in Reed’s Ferry. Jacob McGaw was a Scots-Irish immigrant who arrived in New Hampshire when he was young. He was a weaver, that settled at Reed’s Ferry in the mid-1700s, he eventually became the successful owner of a store and tavern. McGaw was an active participant in local town government and religious affairs. His son, Robert McGaw, continued to live at the homestead and operated the store and tavern for many years, and was a founder of the McGaw Normal Institute, established in 1849 as a school for teachers.
It is believed that Jacob McGaw built his barn and tavern around an older building. While this is not certain, it was not uncommon for this to occur. It is speculated that this building originates from the mid 17th-century to the mid 18th-century. Most people credit the house as being from the 1720s or 1730s.